US and UN condemn anti-Arab chants at nationalist Israeli march

About 3,000 Israeli police officers oversaw Jerusalem's Flag Day March, which ran through areas with large Palestinian populations

Jerusalem's Muslim Quarter on Thursday, during a far-right march that many Palestinians regard as provocation. Getty
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The US and the UN on Friday condemned anti-Arab slogans, such as "death to Arabs" and "may your villages burn", chanted by far-right Israelis at a nationalist rally.

Tens of thousands of mostly far-right religious Israelis took to the streets of the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday for the Flag March that takes place on Jerusalem Day, a celebration of Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the US "unequivocally opposes racist language of any form".

UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland criticised the "inciteful and racist chants".

The controversial parade is viewed by many Palestinians as a severe provocation. In 2021, the procession sparked an 11-day conflict between Gaza-based militant group Hamas and Israel.

Far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir with nationalist marchers in Jerusalem on Thursday. Getty

Thursday's rally saw clashes between Israeli marchers and Palestinians, despite the presence of about 3,000 police officers.

The march came less than a week after a ceasefire ended five days of fighting between Israeli forces and Gaza militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Despite calls from many Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the international community, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu permitted the march to pass through Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Old City's Muslim Quarter, and then to streets bordering Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam and a recurring flashpoint for tensions.

Earlier in the day, groups of Israelis entered the mosque compound, a move condemned by some in the international community, including the UAE, which called on the Israeli government to "halt escalation and avoid taking steps to exacerbate tension and instability in the region".

Police said they detained two Israelis, one adult and one under 16 who was allegedly carrying a knife, authorities said.

Ayman, a Palestinian in the Old City, told The National as the march was taking place that it "provoked and persecuted" Arabs.

"If I want to go to the Western Wall, I can’t," he said. "But they come to the holiest places for Muslims in Palestine, under police protection."

Updated: May 19, 2023, 2:41 PM